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Too Few, Too Weak: Conflict of Interest Policies at Canadian Medical Schools
Published: Thursday, July 04, 2013
Author: Adrienne Shnier et al.

by Adrienne Shnier, Joel Lexchin, Barbara Mintzes, Annemarie Jutel, Kelly Holloway

Introduction

The education of medical students should be based on the best clinical information available, rather than on commercial interests. Previous research looking at university-wide conflict of interest (COI) policies used in Canadian medical schools has shown very poor regulation. An analysis of COI policies was undertaken to document the current policy environment in all 17 Canadian medical schools.

Methods

A web search was used to initially locate COI policies supplemented by additional information from the deans of each medical school. Strength of policies was rated on a scale of 0 to 2 in 12 categories and also on the presence of enforcement measures. For each school, we report scores for all 12 categories, enforcement measures, and summative scores.

Results

COI policies received summative scores that ranged from 0 to 19, with 0 the lowest possible score obtainable and 24 the maximum. The highest mean scores per category were for disclosure and ghostwriting (0.9) and for gifts and scholarships (0.8).

Discussion

This study provides the first comprehensive evaluation of all 17 Canadian medical school-specific COI policies. Our results suggest that the COI policy environment at Canadian medical schools is generally permissive. Policy development is a dynamic process. We therefore encourage all Canadian medical schools to develop restrictive COI policies to ensure that their medical students are educated based on the best clinical evidence available, free of industry biases and COI relationships that may influence the future medical thinking and prescribing practices of medical students in Canada once they graduate.

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